I’m back. Now, Skyrim.
After 122 hours, I’ve finished the game of shouting at things. Overall the game was fun to play, but it lacked impact. One of the reasons is that the main character is so bland. Sure, he’s just there to be a blank slate to which I can project myself, but I don’t want to project myself to anywhere. Plus the character is already of another species, which puts a damper on the immersion. The only moment when a spark of excitement and roleplaying rose when someone asked whether I had a family, and one of the options was ”Yes, but far away from Skyrim”.
The leveling system felt paradoxically like the best and worst feature of the game. I liked how every skill started as crap, and how they advanced as I played. And I also liked the fact that they dared to make every skill extremely good in the end. With 100 Stealth I could only be noticed when I was standing directly in a light. But when I reached the cap in my favourite skills, the game lost nearly half its charm. I could still level up, but only by training the other skills. After I maxed out Lockpicking, I had no reason to open locks anymore. The Shouts are conceptually fun idea, but they lacked in power in the endgame. I mostly just used Wuld Nah Kest as an additional sprint.
It is surprisingly easy for a random passerby to rise to the master position of pretty much everything in Skyrim. After being chosen as the Listener of the Dark Brotherhood, Harbinger of the Companions, Guild Master of the Thieves’ Guild, Archmage of the College of Winterhold and the Thane of each Hold of Skyrim, the accomplisments started to feel more and more insignificant. That, plus the ever-present RPG money inflation makes all material wealth and power useless clutter.
Since the Dragonborn’s lines are bland and rare, the quests feel like jobs that just have to be done. Most quests are very straightforward and do not offer any interesting options apart from ”Don’t do them”. In the end I sold my soul for several Daedra, which will make afterlife an interesting time for me. The only interesting stories were the morally ambiguous conflict between the Imperial Legion and the Stormcloaks, and the main quest. But the latter was undercut by the end, where the wise old Shoutybeard asks the player ”Will you be a champion for justice or good, or a villain of epic propotions?”. I would have preferred the game to just end, Fallout-style. At least then there would have been closure.
But still, 122 hours. The game was functional and fun at the start. I doubt I’ll return to Skyrim anytime soon, but it was mostly entertaining when I was there. Next on my plate is a straight-up shooter lineup: Metro 2033, Crysis 2 and Spec Ops: The Line. And perhaps some thoughts on how Skyrim would have been truly great.